Approximately 13 years ago, I met Cheryl Davenport who owns and runs Davenport Stables. I was immediately impressed by her tenacity and kindness. When I learned she ran a stable, that sealed the deal. She passed my ultimate "cool" test!
Where is Davenport Stables?
If I told you the stables were about a mile from one of my best friends' house, I can't imagine that would be very helpful. So I will tell you it's in the far northwest suburb of Dayton. It's located on South Diamond Lake Road. The Stable's ten acres are adjacent to Elm Creek Park Reserve which has some beautiful horse trails. Unfortunately, the horses don't appreciate the bicycles on the parallel trail.
Cheryl runs her operation with her husband, John, and a gaggle of wonderful volunteers who give her the elbow grease it takes to run a successful horse farm. She has an assistant, Bryn, who has been a student of Cheryl's for 10 years. She is fifteen and has a few years before goes away to college or other pursuits. Bryn and her mom take care of the Sunday morning feedings so that Cheryl can have one morning off, and Bryn also manages the lesson program.
At Davenport Stables, the mares are kept in one pasture and the geldings in another. Both are set up w ith a track system that keeps the horses moving all day. The system was developed in Europe to promote the horses' health. With the feed in one corner, the water on the far end, the shelter along the path, the horses must constantly move. Thus, they are fighting obesity and other potential ailments.
Cheryl's horses are kept in the pasture all day and all night. I know this may sound a little callous, but Cheryl has not had a sick horse since she has kept the horses living as they would if they were in their natural environment.
Cheryl's program is the most unique one my research has led me to. Let me begin with what is similar to other programs. She offers lessons (she teaches 50 students each week) and camps in the summer. She has an indoor and outdoor arena. Your first lesson is always private, but she offers lessons in groups up to four. The small groups make it possible for Cheryl to observe the connection between the horse and the rider.
And this is where her program differs from any other.
Cheryl doesn't teach Western or English. She tries to teach riders how to connect with their horse. She uses the philosophy of Mark Rashid and has trained personally with him three times. Also, she has hosted clinics with his assistant, Heather Burke, at Davenport Stables and has another horse clinic planned for this summer with her.
Mark Rashid encourages riders to somehow subconsciously move their horses. To guide them gently into the direction or speed needed.
I know it seems crazy. Trust me, I know.
But Cheryl's love and awe of these beautiful animals and her knowledge of them individually made me a believer.
Cheryl appreciates her lesson horses' sacrifices, too. She is adamant that a lesson horses's life is not easy. Being told to do one thing but then given the wrong command. Then being blamed for bad manners....Not an easy way to live.
Cheryl sees the relationship between horse and rider to be a picture of man and God. Like God takes care of us, assures us, protects us, provides for us, so too the rider does for the horse. The horse needs to know the rider has everything under control. And that's what Cheryl wants to have happen during lessons.
- This was the only stable where I was led out into the pasture right away and surrounded by the horses. I was in heaven! Pure heaven!
- I noticed that the mares were catty and feisty. The geldings were polite and kind (basically because when they are gelded they lose all emotions)
- Cheryl is amazed by her horses whether by beauty or by personality. She loves each horse. In fact she has decided not to participate in horse sales because she becomes very attached to each.
- Cheryl's first priority is safety for the riders because "When I put someone's child on the back of one of my horses, I'm putting their everything!" As a mom, I couldn't say it any better!
- As of right now, Davenport Stables does not participate in shows/events. The focus is on riding lessons and boarding. Cheryl, however, is in the beginning processes of learning about Western Dressage competitions.